Chase Utley may or may not be able to go by Opening Day.
The picture got no clearer Wednesday, when Charlie Manuel said of Utley potentially playing in a Spring Training game: “It’s coming up pretty soon, it’ll be a few days yet, but then he’ll start pushing his workouts up. He’ll get going pretty soon. We’ll get him some live pitching and see where he’s at.”
But even still, Manuel’s phrasing and several signs Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com points out leave room to believe… maybe Utley won’t be ready.
Sources tell CSNPhilly that the Phillies are looking for infield help. And Salisbury points out that Freddy Galvis has played second base upwards of 30 innings in the Phils’ past five Spring Training games. Galvis figures to see more time there while Michael Martinez heals his bruised elbow.
Galvis is hitting .308 this Spring in 26 at-bats and leads the Phillies with 7 RBI. Two stats you’ll either be impressed by or say “meaningless sample” to.
He’s 22 and has played 33 games at the Triple-A level. Letting him develop offensively is the plan. He hit well, by light-hitting, glove savvy middle infielder standards, last season at Lehigh Valley… .298/.315/.324. But his OPSs from 2007-09 were .507, .588, .568, all at Single-A. In the National League in 2011, the lowest player OPS was .615 by Jason Bartlett.
So a backup plan is likely in order.
And that would be trading for a middle infielder. The name that jumps out at me is Alberto Callaspo.
Callaspo just fits this team. He’d add offense at second and third base, two positions plagued recently by injuries. Callaspo, according to Fangraphs, was worth 6.8 runs offensively and 7.6 runs defensively (accounted for position) last season.
6.8 + 7.6 = 14.4 runs for Callaspo.
Placido Polanco was worth 14.0 runs defensively but cost the Phillies 5.5 runs with the bat.
14.0 – 5.5 = 8.5 runs for Polanco.
From 2009-11, Callaspo hit .285/.341/.404 with full-season averages of 34 doubles and 10 home runs. He’s played about 1,700 career innings at second base and 1,300 at third base. He’s also played shortstop sparingly and both corner outfield positions on rare occasions.
Callaspo would be a perfect middle infield super-sub, he just hasn’t realized that role yet. Callaspo plays for the Angels, a team with a lot of positional redundancy heading into 2012.
Callaspo projects as the Angels’ Opening Day starter at third base, but he’s only started 3 of the last 7 games there for the Angels. Mark Trumbo — who hit 29 homers and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting last season but must leave first base because of Albert Pujols — has played 3 of the other 4 at third base, and Jorge Cantu started the other game.
The Angels also have Maicer Izturis — another player Murphy mentioned as a possibility — to play third base. Callaspo is far from a need for Los Angeles. He’s making $3.15 million this season. His final year of arbitration is 2013. And at $146 million, the Angels’ payroll is the highest it’s ever been.
So… why not trade the Halos Blanton for Callaspo, straight up? A good old-fashioned baseball trade. Need for need. Redundancy for redundancy.
(To be clear, I’m not calling Blanton a pure redundancy, just recognizing that the Phils have Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick, Joel Pineiro and Dave Bush immediately available for two spots. Pineiro and Bush have pitched this Spring but haven’t yet started. They figure to get starts as camp wears on. So far, the Phillies have given all 13 starts to the projected starting rotation, with one from Kendrick.)
It wouldn’t accomplish the goal of giving the Angels salary relief, but it would subtract a redundancy of theirs for a need. The Angels’ projected fifth starter is 29-year-old journeyman Jerome Williams.
Williams has been hurt for a few weeks and in his place, 24-year-old Garrett Richards has been given the opportunity to make the team. Richards pitched well in Double-A last season but has never pitched at Triple-A, and even if he makes the team and has early success, the Halos would be one starting pitching injury away from having to turn to a replacement-level starter.
The Phils could trade Blanton and his $8.5MM pricetag for Callaspo at $3.15 million. The Angels would pick up their fifth starter and trade away a player they don’t need. The Phillies would get injury insurance in a super-sub that has played every day for three straight seasons, and save $5.35 million if the Angels pay Blanton’s full salary. It isn’t unreasonable to think an Angels team that spent more than $300 million this off-season but isn’t convinced it can win its own division in 2012 would pay an extra $5 million to give 180 innings to Blanton rather than to Williams or Richards.
At least I see it that way. How about you? Who says no first, and why?